If Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983) recorded something for Decca, then it will be somewhere in one of these three boxes, each glorying in full annotation (including photographs and memorabilia), the discs themselves distinguished by original LP artwork (a time there was).

The Baroque/Sacred collection (484 2302, 13 CDs) includes two grand versions of Handel’s Messiah, the same composer’s Acis and Galatea (with Joan Sutherland and Peter Pears), and recordings with Kathleen Ferrier (the original 1952 mono and the 1960 stereo orchestral remake to update the already deceased singer – if anyone was going to connect tempos and mood from eight years previously it was Boult) and Kirsten Flagstad.

The nineteenth- and twentieth-century compilation (484 2284, 16 CDs) is mostly Concerto collaborations – Ricci (Beethoven), Campoli (Bruch, Mendelssohn), Gulda (Chopin, if not the E-minor Piano Concerto as the composer might recognise it, i.e. Balakirev’s arrangement), Nelsova, Elman, Katin, Katchen, Curzon, and Flagstad singing Mahler with the Vienna Philharmonic (as throughout these sets the orchestra is mostly the London Philharmonic, sometimes the LSO, and it must be said that Boult’s Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra isn’t so hot, just as the LPO Rachmaninov Symphonies 2 & 3, presented in Eclipse livery, are also-rans in terms of each work’s discographies; interesting though).

The British Music box (484 2204, 16 CDs) embraces Boult’s first Vaughan Williams Symphony Cycle (the second went to EMI) and includes the superb pioneering Ninth that first appeared on Everest, his second Job (but for me his fourth and final version, LSO/EMI, is the one to have, and a Boston concert performance has recently appeared), the celebrated Holst LP (Hymn of Jesus, Perfect Fool, Egdon Heath; no Planets though, his five versions of it went elsewhere, so too, as examples, his selected Beethoven Symphonies, Brahms, Sibelius and Wagner) plus “previously unpublished recordings of Holst”, Elgar (Violin Concerto with Campoli, and lighter fare), Walton, Bax, Butterworth, and the splendid First Symphony of Humphrey Searle (Boult had his adventurous side, see Berg below), and not forgetting the quite superb account of Malcolm Arnold’s equally alluring English Dances, all eight.

So, three treasure-troves embracing plenty of old and lifelong friends, and some new ones. See ELQ links below.

Commentary by Vernon Handley.

Recording introduced by Sir Adrian.

From the Anderson Archive – No.2 – Sir Adrian Boult records Vaughan Williams’s Job with the LSO for HMV.